The Rochester Americans and Hamilton Bulldogs took their North Division rivalry across the border to Montreal tonight, where the Amerks dropped a 3-2 decision to Hamilton in front of 10,173 fans at the Bell Centre. The Amerks scored two first-period goals, but surrendered a pair of one-goal leads to the Bulldogs, who rallied for the fifth time in six games and earned their first win over Rochester since Nov. 3.
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Jarred Tinordi, Mike Blunden and Steve Qualier each notched single tallies, while Dustin Tokarski made 17 saves to earn his 20th win of the season and his second with the Bulldogs. Daultan Leveille also recorded a pair of assists, including the lone helper on Quailer’s game-winner in the early goings of the second period.
Mark Pysyk and Maxime Legault provided the offense and David Leggio stopped 22 shots for the Amerks, who have now lost two straight and four of their last five. Phil Varone assisted on both Rochester goals, giving the second-year pro eight points (2+6) over his last 10 games. The loss snaps Rochester’s five-game winning streak against Hamilton, falling to 7-2-0-0 on the season against the Bulldogs.
The first period saw the teams combine for three goals in a span of 3:27, with Rochester striking first as Pysyk converted a centering feed from Varone to put the Amerks ahead 1-0. An offensive turnover gave Varone a free lane up the left wing-boards, and seconds after gaining the Hamilton blueline, he feathered a pass to a streaking Pysyk, who one-touched the offer past Tokarski for his fourth goal of the season. Veteran forward Matt Ellis also recorded his first point as an Amerk with the secondary assist.
The lead would not stand long, though, as the Bulldogs answered just 1:08 later after an unlucky bounce made its way to the back of the net, knotting the game at 1-1. Tinordi’s long shot from left point missed wide of the net, but it recoiled off the end boards before skimming off Leggio’s right foot and trickling over the goal-line.
A short-handed goal by Legault at 14:02 made it a 2-1 contest in favor of the Amerks as he banged home Brayden McNabb’s rebound to put Rochester back on top. McNabb’s initial bid rang off the left post and fell to the low slot, where Legault made good on the second opportunity and shoveled it by Tokarski, sending the Amerks into intermission with the early advantage. Varone earned his second point of the night with an assist, helping Legault snap a streak of 22 games without a goal.
The Bulldogs came out flying in the middle stanza, scoring twice in the first 2:04 to erase the deficit and take their first lead of the night. Blunden got things started for Hamilton just 26 seconds in, finishing off a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play with Michael Bournival and Greg Pateryn with a redirect inside the far post from the top of the crease.
Then, a mere 1:38 later, Quailer took Leveille’s pass from the right half-wall and snapped a shot past a blinded Leggio, who never saw Quailer set up between the hash marks thanks to a screen provided by Zack Stortini. Tokarski stopped all six shots he faced in the second period, including a breakaway by Legault in the closing minutes of the frame to preserve Hamilton’s 3-2 edge.
The Amerks mustered several quality scoring chances in the final frame, including two point-blank opportunities with Leggio pulled for an extra attacker, but Tokarski was able to keep everything in front of him as the Bulldogs held on for the win.
The Amerks return home on Tuesday, Feb. 26 when they host the first-place Syracuse Crunch at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be the seventh of 10 meetings between the intrastate rivals this season and can be heard live on Sports 1280 WHTK.